Review

Cracked, 1 juin 2005

Not at all an easy piece. Use headphones with caution. Estrapade makes you believe that there is more variety in noise than in pop music (or all harmony). The electronically produced noise ranges from wailing folklore singing to the bang and clang of a giant steel factory, from the microelectronics of neurons ticking within a small creature to being strapped to an 8-way highway overpass with heavy traffic. Not to mention the mingling noises of a handful of hobby DIY-fanatics meeting to build a small steel-structure in their basement. What you’ll learn is that there is more to frequency than just sound, that there is structure in chaos and that origins of sounds are of no interest. The lesson takes up 75 minutes, so lean back and enjoy.

Maybe it is the air in Canada. Or the vast territory of land all around. Or maybe it is just the people, the society as a whole and in parts and the overall way of living in the big empty country that makes so many interesting music-projects possible. Apart from the tradition of Neil Young there is a lot of music interesting music there. Abstract HipHop (Ghislain Poirier), great electronica (Vitamins For You), even better epic alternative music (with Constellation and friends just too many to mention) and some noise and avant-garde noise. I guess, a sentence like the above does injustice to almost every country by being a platitude with changing names, but there has been an increased influx of avant-noise and music from Canada (and post-hardcore instrumental records) into the Cracked headquarters lately, and since we don’t accept any as our own perceptions and since these two flows come together so neatly in Estrapade I found such a statement justified. In spite of all its obvious blandness.

Noise in itself is an interesting factor. In everyday life it is usually regarded as a nuisance, something to call the police for or to shout at your kids to stop the noise. In arts noise has become an established factor. For instance, I watched the movie One Hour Photo last week mainly for two reasons: 1) my wife wanted to see it. Which is usually reason enough to start watching with her, but most often movies on tv don’t keep my attention for long. 2) the atmospheric sounds in the background at all times. That movie was interesting in its colour-scope and pictures as well as in sound-aspects (the story itself is ruther dull, I mean, there is a lot of freaks out there and most of them are pathetic if you peel away their freaky surface. Which is true for the old straight guy in the gey suit behind the counter as well as for the dreadlocked techno-freak riding the subway). Sound in movies as sound in our everyday environment is usually disregarded or even discriminated against. Why all the longish foreplay in this review: because it was the labour of many artists to bring noise back into the light of attention with music lovers all around. Even more, to be able to call noise, even pure white noise “music” is an important progress. (Wait up for the first Merzbow-release to grace these pages in a few days ahead.) And those keep on still, though mostly unregarded and as underground as you can get.

From the frequency-daddling noise-pitches to the droning echoes and epic atmospheres, Estrapade features a lot of high class noise variety. Also the unfriendly variety of ear-splitting noise-waves or the even more uncomfortable high frequencies that can make you physically sick if you are so inclined. A_Dontigny and Erick d’Orion, long time collaborators and the two minds behind morceaux_de_machines, like their noise mixed and in differing styles, obviously. But they never get bland, superficial or obvious about it. And they like to add a little spice and humour here and there. On the track Onanisme (what a name, makes me think of the name of their radio program: Napalm Jazz – quite a funny for serious avantgardists) they take back the stomping industrial beats from time to time to introduce a siren or the sound of wind blowing and other noises closer to the human ear than laptop glitches. The inclusion of various co-collaborators like Otomo Yoshihide, Diane Labrosse and Martin Tétreault adds to the eclecticism of the mix, by adding turntables, scratching, sampling, and ever so on.

I could never do much with the term music concrete, except for some music standing in the room so loud and vast that the waves of sound form an almost concrete block to bang your head against. Especially in a live setting – as there are some live tracks and some studio tracks on here, you guess which is which – the experience can be very stimulating and exciting. The pathway is narrow though and a lot of times avantgard electronic noise turns into bland trickery or a circus act on the one side or to boredom galore on the other side. (Now ask which one of the two Hasswell belongs to?) The variety and dynamics of Estrapade makes the record stay on the golden path. Even those tracks that carry on for over ten minutes have enough offering to keep you interested – but people who like to listen to noise CDs are used to over-one-hour single tracks, I guess.

As morceaux_de_machines state themselves in their small but interesting innersleeve-manifesto, theirs is “anti-music” in an violent and art-terrorist way, which waves a languish hand at sampling’s and destructionist’s long tradition in art, but they well know that there actually is no such music as anti-music (the reasoning is hidden in the paragraphs above).

From the frequency-daddling noise-pitches to the droning echoes and epic atmospheres, Estrapade features a lot of high class noise variety.

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